Editor’s note: This piece was originally published in the newsletter for the National Art Education Association, and has been reprinted with permission.

Dennis Inhulsen

Dennis Inhulsen

Nearly one thousand art educators from all parts have reviewed and provided feedback to our Next Generation Visual Arts Standards. I am pleased to report that reviewers have supported our work as “agree” or “highly agree” with 85% to 92% approval in all categories.  As chair of the team of art educators writing the standards, I am proud and amazed by their perseverance and professionalism demonstrated throughout the process. While still a work in progress, we are on a positive path to support art education for all students and the teachers that serve them.

 

What are Standards?

The Common Core State Standards Initiative define standards as:

Educational standards help teachers ensure their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful by providing clear goals for student learning.

Source: http://www.corestandards.org

Further, educational standards, are developmentally appropriate, assess with reliable measures, and pay close attention to the gaps of demonstrated learning for all students. Standards in education can be traced to the early 1980’s when a “Nation at Risk” was published prompting legislation by congress through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Standards for Arts Education were first published in 1994 after the standards movement in education was well underway. Since the birth of the standards arts teachers have been increasingly held accountable to them. Our new standards reflect new practices in art education aligned to new challenges teachers face such as demonstrating growth in art for teacher effectiveness ratings and to help teachers with qualities that matter most transferring learning into adulthood. NAEA in partnership with the National Coalition of Core Arts Standards in the local autonomy of teachers and is striving to write standards that can be adapted to a wide variety of teaching and learning conditions. The standards further make the case for more learning in and through the arts.

Through feedback review it was noted that there is a fine line between standards and instruction & curriculum. Indeed, standards in the new Common Core for English Language Arts & Math oftentimes have a tone suggesting “how” to teach not “what” to teach. Like our standards, they are a hybrid of sorts providing enough detail for teachers to assimilate for unit planning. Read the rest of this entry »

Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

When I pulled out of my driveway on Tuesday last week, I saw one of the most indelible signs of fall: the yellow school bus stopped on the corner picking up a gaggle of children for their first day of the school year.

Most parents, if not all, sent their children off with backpacks filled with a bevy of school supplies their child’s school suggested they need to have a successful start to the year—notebooks, folders, pencils, pens, etc. But how many of those schools suggested parents arm their children for the school year with another essential set of learning tools: musical instruments, paints, brushes and dancing shoes? Sadly, not as many as we would like.

Education policies almost universally recognize the value of arts. According to the Arts Education Partnership website, 48  states have arts education standards, 44 have instructional mandates for arts in elementary schools and 32 states list the arts as a core academic subject in their education code. Nevertheless, the availability of arts education in our nation’s schools has been on the decline for more than 30 years. Frankly, that’s unacceptable. And it’s a threat to America’s future prosperity.

We need our schools to prepare students to meet the demands of the 21st century—both for the students’ sake and for the sake of our economy and our society. These demands cannot be met without comprehensive arts education in our nation’s schools. Read the rest of this entry »

Joanna Chin

Joanna Chin

A May 22 Funder Exchange on Evaluating Arts & Social Impact, presented by Americans for the Arts’ Animating Democracy program and hosted by the Nathan Cummings Foundation, brought together 32 funders, evaluation professionals, and arts practitioners to learn about concrete approaches and measures funders use to understand the impact of arts and social change investments. We heard case studies are using from Crossroads Fund in Chicago about its Social Movements Development model, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation about its use of Developmental Evaluation, as well as from the Fledgling Fund and Porch Light Initiative, part of the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia.

At least within this group, evaluation is no longer viewed as a necessary evil, or worse, an empty exercise. Funders and practitioners alike shared examples of shifts in thinking about evaluation toward:

  • Frameworks that identify shared goals and clarify how grantees’ work aligns with larger values and social movements
  • Cross-sector indicators and tools that help stakeholders understand what difference is occurring as a result of their work
  • Iterative learning that moves future efforts toward more effective practices and greater potential for impact

There was a general consensus that if funders were more deliberate in communicating with each other about common interests, intentions, and results, their collective impact could be better understood and perhaps expanded. The need to embrace experimentation and even failure was also broadly supported. Participants valued the in-depth exchange with peers this day afforded and recommended that Animating Democracy organize additional convenings to extend the learning around new cases. Read the rest of this entry »

Masha Raj

Masha Raj

September is the beginning of a new academic year for students, parents, and teachers – and also when we announce our new season of arts education initiatives and competitions!

This fall we are partnering again with KRIS Wine for the fourth annual Art of Education programKRIS, a brand of Winebow, Inc., will award 16 schools in the United States a total of $25,000 in grants to improve academic achievement through quality arts education.  As more than half of the states continue to cut arts education budgets, every extra dollar towards arts education from our corporate partners like KRIS Wine helps.

Last fall, consumers and arts advocates also selected 16 schools during KRIS Wine’s Art of Education contest.  $25,000 was traditionally disseminated to winning schools in various states, ranging from California to New York and all over the country.  KRIS Wine’s investment has made all the difference for the following top winners:

Brunswick Acres; Brunswick, NJ

Brunswick Acres was the top awarded school in the KRIS wine Art of Education program.  The Art of Education experience has helped to bring the entire school together while they competed for the winning prize, inspiring a sense of community that endured throughout the school year.  “I am blessed to be able to work with amazing students, parents, and colleagues who were so dedicated to helping us win this grant,” said art teacher Suzanne Tiedemann. “This donation from KRIS Wine will go a long way in helping supplement our significantly cut art budget for years to come.

With the $5,000 award, the school purchased four brand new iPads for the arts program, which students now utilize to experiment with art in digital space.  The iPads help Brunswick Acres to meet and successfully exceed their 21st century learning requirements from their district.  Additionally the school purchased a color printer for the school community to use as well as supplementary art supplies that otherwise could not have been afforded. Read the rest of this entry »

John Bryan

John Bryan

CultureWorks is the privately-funded nonprofit organization that serves as the local arts agency for Richmond, Virginia. Although it is only the nation’s 43rd largest city, Richmond has a significant business community as evidenced by it being the headquarters for 11 Fortune 1000 companies – 6 of which are F500s.

Five ongoing strategies have helped CultureWorks engage good relationships between Richmond’s arts and business communities:

1) CultureWorks is an active member of the Greater Richmond Chamber. “Active” includes volunteering for committees, paying to be part of the annual 3-day InterCity Visit, and attending Chamber gatherings – all of which help to establish and strengthen personal relationships.

2) CultureWorks publishes reports on its activities and accomplishments and makes sure that business leaders read the reports with interest. I snail-mail a hardcopy of each report to several dozen business leaders, and I attach a hand-written personalized sticky note that has a message such as, “Frank – Good to see you last week. I’ve highlighted a couple of things on this report that you might find interesting.” It’s a lot of work preparing 50 or more of these letters, but the personalized notes cause this to be a communication that the business leaders do read.

3) CultureWorks invites business leaders to volunteer isolated segments of their time to serve on short-term project-specific committees and task teams. Examples include the review panels for the CultureWorks Grants Program and our metrics task team. This not only builds relationships, but also gives the corporate participants a first-hand look at the value of the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Jennifer Cole

Jennifer Cole

On Friday, April 30, 2010 it started raining. Most Nashvillians rented a movie, grabbed a pizza and stayed in for the night. By lunch the next day, I remarked to my husband that the rain was “getting a little Biblical”.  Within 2 hours I received a call that changed my life. The Deputy Mayor summoned me into the Emergency Command Center to help manage the city’s coordination and flood response. I did not leave that post for nearly six months.

I had been on the job at Metro Arts for just 4 months. Luckily, my previous career had included disaster training and coordination—just enough to be helpful in a city overwhelmed by water. By May 2, the region had absorbed more than 17 inches of water, one of the largest rain events ever recorded in America. More than 11 individuals lost their lives and more than 10,000 properties were damaged. [1]

Downtown Nashville

Downtown Nashville

We sustained millions in damage to the Nashville Symphony; the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum; and dozens of smaller artist studios, galleries, and community arts organizations. Hundreds of musicians and touring acts lost their equipment and costumes when SoundCheck Nashville was completely flooded.

Within a matter of moments, I went from Arts Administrator to co-managing the Office of Disaster Recovery. More than 3 years later, I still get twitchy when it rains for more than a few hours.

What I learned on the ground during the response and working with the community after the flood just might help someone else.  Artists and grassroots arts agencies are particularly vulnerable and must think about disasters before the happen. Read the rest of this entry »

Janet Langsam

Janet Langsam

Warren Buffet had it right when he committed to giving away more than half his money to charity. “If you’re in the luckiest one percent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 percent.”  And, indeed, 86% of the $316 billion giving reported in 2012, is by individuals, says Giving USA, an arm of Indiana University. Buffett’s motivation seems to be about social justice, but it is also about social good. He appears to be a guy who believes in creating opportunity for others and in doing so, fuels ideas, innovations, and projects that ultimately have an economic impact on society.

In a new book, entitled “Why Philanthropy Matters,” Zoltan J. Acs advocates that the benefit of philanthropy is that it nurtures innovation and entrepreneurship which is essential for prosperity. I thought about this connection between entrepreneurship and philanthropy as I pondered a new national study put out by Americans for the Arts in which some 600 corporations of all sizes were surveyed. Bearing in mind that corporate funds are only 6% of the total giving pie, on the bright side, the survey reports that corporate giving to the arts from 2009 through 2012 is up by 18% – reversing some, but certainly not all, of the losses during the height of the recession. That is heartening.

What got my head spinning, however, is that 82% of this support comes from businesses with less that $50 million in revenue. Even more startling is that 47% of that support comes from corporations with less than $1 million in revenue. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking on my part, but this focus by small business on local markets does seems to underscore the affinity that already exists between the arts and entrepreneurship, based in part upon the fact that training in the arts leads to solving problems creatively. Or, as Warren Buffet said it: “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

(This post, originally published on This and That by JL, is one in a weekly series highlighting The pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage. Visit our website to find out how both businesses and local arts agencies can get involved!)

Barbara Schaffer Bacon

Barbara Schaffer Bacon

As the nation commemorates the 1963 March on Washington, Americans will be reminded of the power the arts bring to movements for human rights. The music and singing that day played a critical role in inspiring, mobilizing, and giving voice to the civil rights movement. ‘‘The freedom songs are playing a strong and vital role in our struggle,’’ said Martin Luther King, Jr. ‘‘they give the people new courage and a sense of unity. I think they keep alive a faith, a radiant hope, in the future, particularly in our most trying hours’’. [1]

Theater also played a critical role. The Free Southern Theater (FST), was formed in 1963, same year as the March on Washington, to be a cultural arm of the Civil Rights Movement—“a theater for those who have no theater.” The FST “used art to support the Civil Rights Movement through a professional touring company, a community engagement program and training opportunities for local people interested in writing, performing and producing theater.” The FST was a major influence in the Black Theatre Movement, using theater “as an instrument to stimulate the development of critical and reflective thought among Black people in the South.” FST Artistic Director, John O’Neal, was a co-founder and a guiding force throughout the organization’s existence. Americans for the Arts has been privileged to learn from and support John O’Neal and Junebug Productions as part of our Animating Democracy Lab for the Color Line Project.

Read the rest of this entry »

Alex Sarian

Alex Sarian

If you take a minute to reach out and feel the pulse of the arts education landscape around the country, I’m willing to bet you’ll hear the phrase “Community Engagement” a lot more than you’d expect: cultural institutions in every state provide education programs that engage the community through the arts; schools across the nation fight for arts programs that engage their students both in and out of the school day – and don’t expect to receive any money from the philanthropic sector unless “community engagement” is at the center of your argument.  And it should be.  In the arts (and even more in the world of arts education) we are in the business of engaging audiences (and students), so we need to constantly be in-tune with what makes them tick.

But do we often stop to talk about demographics?  No.  So let’s…

One of the highlights of my year (so far) was listening to Manuel Pastor discuss the demographic shift in communities around the US and how they will inherently affect those of us who claim to work to serve community needs.  In my opinion, some of the most important facts to come out of his research are:

-          In the last decade, the number of Latinos in the US has grown by 43%, whereas the number of African Americans has grown by 12%, and the number of Non-Hispanic Whites by 1%.

-          Statistics show that in 2010, the number of Non-Hispanic Whites dying was greater than the number being born.

-          Studies indicate that the “net migration” from Mexico is “0” – almost at a standstill.  Which indicates that the growth of the Latino community is a result, in large part, of family planning: the average Mexican family is 3-5 times larger than the average American family.

Pastor’s findings indicate that the largest demographic shift in the US today is affecting the youth population: there are currently 4.3 million less Non-Hispanic White people under the age of 18 than there were 10 years ago; and there are 4.7 million more Latinos under the age of 18 than there were 10 years ago.  By the year 2020, the majority of people under the age of 18 will be people of color.

So what are we doing as a field to engage the ‘new’ American community? Read the rest of this entry »

Catherine Brandt

Catherine Brandt

The New York Times recently published an opinion piece by Peter Singer asserting that some charitable causes are more important and, consequently, more worthy of philanthropic dollars. In the piece, Singer singles out arts, culture, and heritage institutions as less deserving. Both Laura Zucker, executive director of L.A. County Arts Commission, and Janet Brown, President and CEO of Grantmakers in the Arts, submitted rebuttals to The New York Times. As the paper has yet to publish them, we thought we would share them with you here instead:

 

To the Editor

Re: “Good Charity, Bad Charity” in the August 11 Sunday Review section, Mr. Singer assumes that charitable giving is a zero sum game. It isn’t. People give for a wide variety of reasons, including personal passions and social connectivity, and can almost always be motivated to give more when presented with compelling opportunities to make a difference. Making that difference can be both about mitigating the evils of the world and building on our assets, particularly when the effects of either are almost never as easy to quantify as the example Mr. Singer uses. How would the net benefits of his giving equation change if the charity working to reduce the incidence of trachoma was ineffectual at reaching the people who needed its services most and the museum building its new wing instituted a local hiring program that reduced the unemployment rate and enabled more people to purchase health insurance?

~Laura Zucker, Executive Director; L.A. County Arts Commission

 

Either-Or is Harmful to Charities and Society

Peter Singer’s Sunday, August 11 NY Times article entitled “Good Charity, Bad Charity” was a shocker. One would expect something a bit more far-reaching and not quite so simplistic from a bioethicist. American philanthropy, individual to institutional, reflects support for charities that represent the entire human spectrum. People are multitasking in charitable giving, just as they have multiple passions in their lives. It is what you would expect from a diverse country with a rich history of charitable giving.

Pitting charitable sectors against each other is an unseemly answer to the betterment of a society that, hopefully, strives to both eradicate suffering and promote an informed and satisfied citizenry. As President of Grantmakers in the Arts, I was appalled by Mr. Singer’s use of a museum as an example of “bad charity.” What kind of society or civilization would not value its history enough to share it with future generations? That history, whether told through art, culture, medicine or politics, is the journey of humankind. Interestingly, a primary value of the arts and humanities is empathy, understanding and pronouncing the pain of others in order to improve our condition as human beings. The willingness to preserve artistic and cultural treasures and interpret events past and present is a valuable part of any society that deems itself caring about its world citizens. Read the rest of this entry »

Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

The Conference Board recently released their 2013 CEO Challenge Report, which outlined the top five global challenges for CEOs:

  1. Human Capital
  2. Operational Excellence
  3. Innovation
  4. Customer Relationships, and
  5. Global Political Economic Risk.

As CEO of Americans for the Arts, these challenges obviously resonated with me. But they also struck a chord with the arts advocate in me.

I know that the arts industry can feel very foreign to the business community. But as companies seek new ways to build their competitive advantage, they are increasingly finding that the arts are the key to driving true innovation, ultimately reaching their business goals. So in fact, the arts can play a tremendously important role in helping CEOs address each of the challenges outlined in the CEO Challenge Report. Read the rest of this entry »

Lisa Phillips

Lisa Phillips

There are many things I don’t know about life and how the world works, but there are two things I know for certain. The first is that young people are less prepared for the working world than they were 20 years ago. The second is that there is something we can do about it!

Don’t get me wrong, young people today are energetic, caring about the environment and passionate about social justice. However, when it comes to the skills they need to conquer the competitive nature of the working world, there is some work to be done. Success skills such as effective communication, accountability, finding solutions to challenges, and adaptability are just some of the areas that the current generation is lacking.

So where can they learn them?

In those “nice to have, but not need to have” programs that our school boards seem to be cutting like they were last year’s fashions…THE ARTS!

If parents, educators and policy makers would just LOOK and see what I see, they would recognize an untapped opportunity to catapult 21st century students toward achieving their goals in life. I would like to offer 6 reasons why the arts offer excellent opportunities to develop these vital success skills.

1.     The Arts Don’t Focus on Right & Wrong

The simple fact is, if we learn mainly in an environment in which we pump out answers that are either right or wrong, with no middle ground or room for creativity, we will begin to see the whole world as black and white. We will expect every problem to have a right answer. Participation in the arts opens up our mind to the possibility that the world is full of color and there is more than one way to achieve a goal. When the pressure of needing to find the right answer is removed, it becomes easier to take a risk and try – and trying is the only way to succeed. Read the rest of this entry »

John R. Kilacky

John R. Killacky

Vermont, like many states, is considering comprehensive tax reform. Committees in the Vermont Senate and House developed proposals last legislative session and systemic changes seem high on the agenda for the 2014 session. Key components focus on increasing the portion of personal income that is taxed by capping deductions, including charitable contributions.

If passed, this revision to the tax code would negatively affect the work of nonprofit organizations statewide.

Vermont’s robust nonprofit sector comprises nearly 4,000 human, social service, educational, religious, and cultural organizations, ranking us No. 1 per capita in the nation. The Vermont Community Foundation reported in 2010 that these agencies generate $4.1 billion in annual revenue and represent 18.7 percent of our gross state product.

Nonprofits deliver critical services that government alone cannot provide: sheltering, caring for, and feeding those less fortunate; early childhood education; and cultural enrichment are just a few examples. Nonprofits include schools, hospitals, churches, libraries, community health clinics, workforce development centers, mentoring programs, homeless shelters, food banks, theaters, and galleries.

Some focus on specific populations: providing safe spaces for women, LGBT youth, refugees, the disabled, and migrant workers. They range from small, volunteer-run groups to huge universities. Although more than 80 percent of Vermont’s nonprofits operate with budgets of less than $250,000 each year.

By delivering mission-related programs, nonprofits improve lives and transform communities. Investing in early intervention is more cost-effective than dealing with societal dysfunction later in life. Food and shelter vs. homelessness, after-school tutoring vs. illiteracy, involved children vs. disengaged teens, job skills training vs. unemployment, community vs. isolation — consider the alternatives. Read the rest of this entry »

Lydia Black

Lydia Antunes Black

When we partnered with Americans for the Arts to conduct an Arts & Economic Prosperity ™ customized economic impact study for Lee County , we were expecting to gain numbers—quantitative benchmarks against which we could eventually measure our progress.  We did get numbers, and plenty of them, but the value of the data exceeded all of my expectations.  Our community’s Arts & Economic Prosperity story is about funding and advocacy.  But above and beyond that, it is about the new ways we found of connecting to one another within the nonprofit arts sector and nationally through the data collection process. It’s about how we learned an entirely new language that has allowed inroads into business and government through the analysis and report.  Our community’s story is about rallying the many groups doing important work on the ground, and helping to bring us together through our shared goal of supporting the arts in Lee County.  This report belongs to us all.  That is why, despite our organization growing from 300 members to 1000, or turning around a deficit into a balanced budget, the customized Arts & Economic Prosperity report is still the piece I am most proud of in my tenure as Executive Director.

The Lee County Alliance for the Arts works hard to support itself, a truth supported by the fact that earned revenue accounts for more than 80 percent of our operating budget.  For that reason, we carefully considered our decision to spend those dollars on an economic impact study.  But there is no doubt in my mind that the return on investment has more than made up for it.  Today, we are still reaping the benefits of our commitment.  Before the study, we were not speaking the same language as our business and government leaders. With the economic impact findings, we are now able to prove, with hard numbers and data, that the arts community is a socio-economic driver and an important partner in the economic revitalization of Lee County.  We, the nonprofit arts community, are part of the solution. Read the rest of this entry »

Bruce Whitacre

Bruce Whitacre

A little over a year ago, National Corporate Theatre Fund (NCTF) announced the launch of Impact Creativity, a three-year, $5 million effort to secure the funding of education programs at our 19 theatres. Together, these theatres serve over 500,000 K-12 children and youth, with the large number of students experiencing the student matinée programs. We were very grateful to Ernst and Young for their contribution in 2012 that got the ball rolling.

Now, we are focusing our efforts on the world of innovation and creativity going on at our theatres. Seattle Rep Theatre is helping teachers better utilize arts techniques to enliven the classroom. Actors Theatre of Louisville is engaging students in classrooms through a Living Newspaper playwriting program. The Goodman Theatre is teaching STEM skills through a study of theatre magic found in their production of A Christmas Carol. Altogether, we identified 19 innovative projects and began asking our funding partners to help theatres sustain this creative burst through what we call our Impact Creativity Innovation Program.

These include programs designed for an array of children with different and sometimes challenging circumstances: Trinity Rep Active Imagination Network (TRAIN) in Providence engages children in the autism spectrum; Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia engages kids with plays that address diversity, civil rights and bullying, among other subjects; and American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and Manhattan Theatre Club in New York are working with youth caught up in the criminal justice and school discipline systems. For a complete list of the programs, click here.

Happily, by the close of our fiscal year in June, several individuals, foundations and companies were as impressed with these programs as we were. Individual donors and family foundations joined us in sustaining these innovation programs. And the Hearst Foundations, one of the few national foundations active in the arts, provided a $100,000 grant for these programs. We have not met the full cost – total budgets for these projects in 2013-14 are nearly $1 million – but we are on our way.

As we continue to pursue support for these programs, a few things are becoming more and more clear. First, arts education supporters face unprecedented challenges. We have been around a long time and the field is very competitive. Years of advocacy can create a kind of fatigue around the issue. Schools and families, especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods, are more challenged than ever to engage. And that is not just for financial reasons. Rapidly changing school leadership, family instability and the challenge of sustaining the service to those who would most benefit from it affect arts education as they do all subjects. More problematic, research in the field is needed to document what is virtually universally known on an anecdotal basis: theatre education changes lives. Read the rest of this entry »

Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.